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Is 5G dangerous? According to the latest Ofcom tests, the answer is a resounding no

Ofcom tests at 5G sites in 10 UK cities revealed that electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions were “a small fraction” of guideline levels

Amid conspiracy theories and claims about whether or not 5G is safe, Ofcom has released the results of its recent electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions tests.

 Following 16 tests at some the UK’s busiest 5G sites, across 10 cities, Ofcom confirms that not only is 5G safe, it produces a “small fraction” of guideline levels set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). 

The ICNIRP is recognised by the World Health Organisation as an official, independent and non-governmental body set up to protect people and the environment against the effects of non-ionising radiation.

Ofcom’s tests were carried out at the following sites between the 3 February and 14 February this year. Clicking on a location’s name will download the relevant Ofcom emissions report. 

Survey locationTown/city
Crumpsall ValeManchester
The SeneddCardiff
Gorgie RoadEdinburgh
Renfrew StreetGlasgow
Canary WharfLondon
Victoria StationLondon
Lanyon PlaceBelfast
St Augustine’s ParadeBristol
Charing CrossLondon
Mailbox BirminghamBirmingham
Lawrence RoadLiverpool
Waterloo StationLondon
Hatton GardenLiverpool
St David’s CentreCardiff
Great Bridgewater StreetManchester
Wedgwood GateStevenage

The maximum reading measured at any site across all bands – 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G – was 1.5 per cent of the ICNIRP’s guideline levels, and that was at a single site in Canary Wharf. In fact, the highest level observed in the band used purely 5G was just 0.039 per cent of the reference level.

The full list of reference levels and ICNIRP’s research paper can be found here. The paper concludes, generally, that “there is insufficient information on the biological and health effects of EMF exposure of human populations and experimental animals to provide a rigorous basis for establishing safety factors over the whole frequency range and for all frequency modulations.” You can additionally read more about Ofcom’s testing and licensing procedures here.

What is 5G?

It appears a substantial part of the fear around 5G dangers is that people don’t fully understand what 5G is and how 5G works. We’ve explained in more detail in our What is 5G? guide, but to summarise: 5G is the next-generation of mobile data and network technology.

In its current form it builds upon and uses existing networks, including those used by 3G and 4G services, to offer faster speeds and greater connection density. The latter means it can connect to more devices without sacrificing speeds.

This makes it ideal for connecting millions of Internet of Things devices, for example, but to fully achieve this potential, it requires using parts of the radio spectrum not used widely before. And using these parts in ways that have not been seen before. 

Full-5G services, as opposed to 5G services provided by simply being tacked onto existing 4G networks, involves clusters of smaller phone masts closer to the ground transmitting so-called “millimetre waves” between much higher numbers of transmitters and receivers. 

This is where the fears about 5G dangers come in. 

5G dangers

There is already a school of thought that radiation from standard phone masts is damaging to our health, so the idea of multiplying the number of masts and tapping into shorter waves has added fuel to this fire.

It’s unclear where posts and concerns about 5G dangers originated, but they have led to a number of conspiracy theories, as well as activist groups forming and protesting about its use. 

Vodafone was recently accused of killing hundreds of birds when it switched on its 5G network in the Bodedern region of Wales at the end of last year. Despite the fact Vodafone 5G is not available in this area, nor has Vodafone been conducting tests in the area. 

Other, unsubstantiated, theories suggest 5G masts can cause cancer, fetal death, diabetes and eye damage, among other conditions.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently ruled that an advert by campaign group Electrosensitivity-UK was “misleading” and banned its use after a poster wrongfully claimed 5G causes “reduced male fertility, depression, disturbed sleep and headaches, as well as cancer.”

Is 5G safe?

The UK Government’s guidance in the ASA ruling, which took into account the most up-to-date evidence from the World Health Organisation and the European Commission, concluded that measurements made across the UK show that radiation and emission levels fall well within the guidelines set by ICNIRP. 

Ofcom’s latest test results continue to confirm these findings. 

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